Tag Archives: favorite

Favorite Historical Books, #1

I think I’m going to divide my favorite history books into three sections for you: 1) ancient history, 2) medieval and renaissance history, and 3) 1700-and-later. More or less. ๐Ÿ˜‰ You know I’m not always very precise…

So here’s the Ancient History Favorites randomly within each category:

Juvenile & Young Adult

Great Myths & Legends, by Childcraft

A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park

Mara, Daughter of the Nile, and The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin

Deborah, by H.B. Moore

Behold Your Queen, by Gladys Malvern

Hercules and Other Tales from Greek Myths, by Olivia E Coolidge

Mark of the Thief series, by Jennifer A Nielsen

Alphabet of Dreams, by Susan Fletcher

Nobody’s Princess series, by Esther M. Friesner

The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare

Adult

The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points That Saved the World, by Christ Stewart (crosses time periods) (non-fiction)

Researching History for Fantasy Writers, by Dayle A. Dermatis (non-fiction)

The Whole Armor of God, by David C. Belt (non-fiction)

The Robe, by Douglas C. Lloyd

The Lance of Kanana, by Harry Willard French

The Donkey’s Gift, by Thomas M. Coffey

 

It seems I need some recommendations for good historical fiction in the pre-medieval time period! So, tell me, all you historical readers— what do you recommend? ๐Ÿ˜€

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

Sports Stories

Since May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, I thought I’d give you some sports stories I liked. As you can tell, this is not a big category for me…

Diary Queen series, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

The Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen

One-Handed Catch, by Mary Jane Auch

The Secret Journal of Brett Colton, by Kay Lynn Mangum

The Brooklyn Nine, by Alan Gratz

Fight Game, by Kate Wild

Ladies Night, by Jill Tunney

Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand

Shift, by Jennifer Bradbury

Playing With the Boys, by Liz Tigelaar

Keeping Score, by Linda Sue Park

Things Invisible to See, by Nancy Willard

The Infinite Arena, by Terry Carr

Chance for Home, by Tracy Hunter Abramson

Ranee S Clark

Payback Time, by Carl Deuker

That’s it, folks. Play ball!
Marty C. Lee

Favorite Beast-Tales

Let’s start with a definition of beast-tales. They are stories where a main character is an animal (or sometimes a monster). Most of them have the point-of-view of the animal, although occasionally I will cheat on that definition.

The Redwall series is an example of beast tales. Yes, I like Redwall. No, it doesn’t make my list of favorites, mostly because I struggle with the accents too much. The Velveteen Rabbit is a classic example of a beast tale. I like it, too, but not enough for this list. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, in random order, here are some of my favorite beast tales.

Children’s Books

Skippy Jon Jones series, by Judy Schachner

Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Seuss

The Serendipity series, by Stephen Cosgrove

The Saggy Baggy Elephant, and The Tawny Scrawny Lion, by Kathryn Jackson

The Pigeon series, by Mo Willems

Juvenile/Young Adult

One Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith (no, not the Disney version)

The Town Cats and Other Tales, by Lloyd Alexander

The Trumpet of the Swan, and Charlotte’s Web, and Stuart Little, by E.B. White

Man o’ War, by Walter Farley

The Sign of the Cat, by Lynne Jonell

The Underland Chronicles series, by Suzanne Collins (ever so much better than The Hunger Games, in my opinion)

The Unicorn Chronicles series, by Bruce Coville

Dragon of the Lost Sea series, by Laurence Yep

The Cricket in Times Square series, by George Selden

Dragon Keeper series, by Carole Wilkinson

Adult

The Donkey’s Gift, by Thomas M. Coffey

The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford

There you go! It doesn’t look like a long list, but several of them are series, so it should keep you busy for a few days. ๐Ÿ™‚ Curl up with your favorite furry friend and read a book about animals.

What’s your favorite beast tale?

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

Mystery Books

I like mysteries, though I prefer the kind without gore. In fact, my second book is a fantasy/mystery mash-up (but we aren’t talking about that today). Here are some of my favorite mysteries. I’ve sorted them by approximate age group, but otherwise they are in random order.

Juvenile (there’s cross over between here and YA)

Robert Newman’s Case of… series, which has loose ties to Sherlock Holmes (but is better) (I had to buy these second-hand because I was borrowing them too often)

The Case of the Marble Monster, by I.G. Edmonds

Sammy Keyes series, by Wendelin Van Draanen (until the last one)

Brixton Brothers series, by Max Barnett

The Puzzle Book & Mathemagic, Childcraft

The Mysterious Benedict Society series, by Trenton Lee Stewart

Echo Falls series, by Peter Abrahams

The early Box Car Children books, by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Cat Royal series, by Julia Golding

The Happy Hollisters series, by Jerry West

Encyclopedia Brown series, by Donald J. Sobol

A Murder for Her Majesty, by Beth Hilgartner

Young Adult

The Agency series, by Y.S. Lee

Enola Holmes series, by Nancy Springer

The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner

Knight & Rogue series, by Hilari Bell

Montmorency series, by Eleanor Updale

Rhiannon, by Vicki Grove

Too Much Information, by Dale Britton

Blossom Culp series, by Richard Peck

The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Trixie Belden series, by Julie Campbellย  & Kathryn Kenny (it’s hard to get your hands on the later ones)

Stranje House series, by Kathleen Baldwin

Samurai Detective series, by Dorothy Hoobler

The Star of Kazan, by Eva Ibbotson

Adult

The early Aunt Dimity books, by Nancy Atherton (the late ones aren’t BAD, just a little duller)

Meg Langslow series & Turing Hopper series, by Donna Andrews (who really should finish the Turing series! *hint hint*)

Sherlock Holmes series, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Frank Shaw series, by John D. Brown (I’m afraid I could never finish his fantasies)

The Falconer’s Knot, by Mary Hoffman

Mrs. Pollifax series, by Dorothy Gilman

Sacred Ground, by Mercedes Lackey

The Lady & the Highwayman, by Sarah M. Eden

The Cuckoo’s Egg, by Clifford Stoll (true story)

Mary Russell series, by Laurie King (IMO, the best new Sherlock Holmes series for adults)

This Just In, by Kerry Blair

Brother Cadfael series, by Ellis Peters (also a TV series which isn’t bad)

 

So, did anything look interesting to you? What is your favorite mystery?

Happy sleuthing,
Marty C. Lee

Funny Books

Just for the fun of it, I’m declaring March to be Comedy Month. Well, right here on my website, anyway. So here’s a list of books I found to be amusing. (Some of them have made it on other lists.)

Children’s Comedy

The Skippy-Jon Jones series, by Judy Schachner

Pigeon series, by Mo Willems

Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp Monster, by Mercer Mayer (if you can read it with an accent, it’s a great touch)

Juvenile Comedy

The Great Brain series, by John D. Fitzgerald (based on true stories, no less…)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson

Pippi Longstocking series, by Astrid Lindgren

Ramona series & Henry Huggins series, by Beverly Cleary

The Case of the Mistaken Identity, by Mac Barnett

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex (so, so much better than the movie)

Teen Comedy (the line between Juvenile & Teen can be iffy, so feel free to pull from both categories)

Goldfish, by Nat Luursema

Chickens in the Headlights, by Matthew Buckley (also based on true stories)

Homer Price series, by Robert McCloskey

Howl’s Moving Castle series, by Diana Wynn Jones

The Girl Who Invented Romance, and Hit the Road, by Caroline B. Cooney

Romeo and Juliet–Together (and Alive!) at Last, by Avi

Janette Rallison

Enthusiasm, by Polly Shulman

Adult Comedy

The List, by Melanie Jacobson

Phule’s Company series, by Robert Asprin (content warning: adult content)

A Night of Blacker Darkness, by Dan Wells

The Donkey’s Gift, by Thomas M. Coffey

And Then You’re Dead: What Really Happens If You Get Swallowed by a Whale, Are Shot from a Cannon, or Go Barreling Over Niagara, by Cody Cassidy

Enchanted, Inc series, by Shanna Swendson

 

What books have made you laugh hard enough to cry?
Marty C. Lee

Favorite Romance Books

Since Valentine’s Day is coming up soon, I thought I’d talk about some favorite romances. I don’t read steamy romance, so if that’s your style, you’ll need to get a list from someone else. I’ll try to remember to update this every year. You can remind me. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Please don’t consider this a comprehensive list. Also, as you read “what I liked less,” remember that these made my favorites list, so their faults are pretty minor.

Romance (clean)

most of Georgette Heyer’s romances (with The Masqueraders at the top of the list). What I like: believable situations, engaging characters with a wide variety of physical and personality traits, fun historical settings, and people who fall in love for realistic reasons. What I like less: slower plots, lots and lots of historical vocabulary.

Juliane Donaldson. What I like:ย  I once described her books to someone as “Georgette Heyer with a faster plot and a simpler vocabulary.” What I like less: the faster plot doesn’t allow as much time for emotional development, though she does well with what she has.

Sarah M. Eden. What I like: most of the same things I like about Donaldson, honestly. What I like less: sometimes she succumbs to the lure of a love triangle.

Lynn Kurland, until recently. What I like: lots of emotion, funny dialogue, characters you love to love. What I like less: sometimes repetitive, and when she’s having a bad year, it all falls apart.

Mary Robinette Kowal. What I like: Regency romance with magic. Plus realistic characters. What I like less: Stupid pride. Also, I want to smack several parents.

Suzanne Weyn and Cameron Dokey (not co-authors, but write for the same series). What I like: fairy tales with a twist, well-written with good characters. What I like less: depends on the book, but sometimes the fairy tale is twisted pretty far out of shape.

A Death-Struck Year, by Makiia Lucier. What I like: a realistic YA romance that doesn’t include soulmates, love at first sight, or purely physical attraction. What I like less: since it’s about the Spanish Flu, it’s pretty sad.

Ann Turnbull. What I like: quiet Quaker love and standing up for what’s right. What I like less: sometimes heavy on history at the expense of the characters.

The Ordinary Princess, by M. M. Kaye. What I like: a princess with character, a romance based on friendship, and such realistic, fun-to-love characters. What I like less: um… it’s too short. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine. What I like: an ordinary girl in an extraordinary situation who solves her own problems with strength of will. What I like less: reading the other languages, and the total mess the movie was.

Silver Woven in My Hair, by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. What I like: a romance based on friendship, and an ordinary girl who doesn’t give up. (Okay, so I have a “type.” I bet you do, too.) What I like less: I wanted to see the throne scene in person instead of flashback, thank you very much.

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, by Barbara Cohen. What I like: a romance based on friendship, an intelligent girl, a family who loves each other. What I like less: the jerky cousins, of course.

Beauty, by Robin McKinley. What I like: by now, if I say it’s my “type,” you know what I mean, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰ What I like less: the ending was too abrupt. (Rose Daughter is also quite good, though different.)

Carla Kelly (some of them). I have to put a warning on this one. She used to write according to publisher’s dictates, and those books do not fit my “clean” standard. When she got popular enough, she started writing the way she wanted, and those are the ones I like. So just be careful, and if you find one that shocks you that I recommended it, it’s not one I recommended… What I like: realistic characters, fun situations, believable love. What I like less: picking up the wrong book of hers and being appalled.

Kathleen Baldwin. What I like: humor, gumption, and a refreshing lack of love at first sight in YA romance. What I like less: withholding secrets.

Janette Rallison. What I like: contemporary YA with more humor than angst. What I liked less: not much depth beyond the “life lesson moral.”

Earth Girl series, by Janet Edwards. What I like: YA sci-fi on Earth with a spunky heroine and a hero who won’t give up. What I like less: some things are very convenient—too convenient—including the heroine’s ever-ready answers.

Karen Witemeyer. What I like: non-Regency historical, realistic characters and motivations. What I like less: sometimes their actions don’t match their motivations.

Tiffany Odekirk. Contemporary romance. What I like: characters with real problems to overcome. What I like less: sometimes kind of depressing.

Jessica Day George. What I like: fun characters and loving families. What I like less: a bit scant on emotion. (Sorry, Jessica. Don’t worry, I’ll still read the next one.)

Shanna Swendson. What I like: what if the real world actually had magic? Plus fun characters. What I liked less: sometimes she lost track of the fun stuff.

Kerry Blair. What I like: the romance is the subplot, and there’s always something else going on. What I like less: sometimes I have to scratch my head about the convenient coincidences.

Liz McCraine. What I like: fun characters, lots of magic, happy endings. What I like less: sometimes a little too YA.

Carol Malone. What I like: historical fiction from the 50’s that captures the cadence of the time as well as the vocabulary, plenty of danger in the plot. What I like less: I’m not a big sports fan.

Do you have a favorite to recommend to me? ๐Ÿ˜€
M. C. Lee

Self-Help Books

In honor of New’s Year goals, and because my sister was asking, here’s a list of some of my favorite self-help books. I haven’t included “help me understand myself” or “help me with parenting/marriage,” though I do have posts about those (click for the links). I also didn’t include religious books, but I do recommend religion as a way to improve yourself.

I’ve sorted the list by the goal you might be making. Other than that, it’s in random order.

“I want to get stuff done.”

The Power of When: Discover your chronotype and maximise your potential, by Michael Breus. What is the best time of day for you to do different things? Based on your wake/sleep cycle and body chemistry. If you’ve heard of early bird/night owl, this is the same kind of thing, but with four choices and actual explanations.

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, by Roy F. Baumeister, John Tierney. This is less of a body book and more of a brain book. I can’t possibly be the only person who wants to understand my brain, can I?

“I want to make better decisions.”

*Choose Your Own Adulthood: A Small Book about the Small Choices that Make the Biggest Difference, by Hal Edward Runkel. Because even adults can get more adult-ish.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, by Dan Ariely. Why we sometimes trip ourselves in our thinking, and what to do about it.

How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer. If you want to understand more about the processes of decision-making. Yes, I like brain books…

“I want to do better with my money.”

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness, by Dave Ramsey. I’m sure there are other great finance books, but this is one of the first I recommend to anyone. It starts with the basics.

“I want to figure out what to do with my life.”
(This is a rather loose category, sorry.)

Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. What makes someone the best of the best. Okay, so it might not actually help you figure out what to do with your life, but maybe it will help you see some talents and potential you overlooked.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield. This is the book I credit for pushing me the final step toward author. No, he doesn’t talk about writing, just about life and going for what you want.

*Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, by Kelly Williams Brown. Doesn’t help you pick a profession, but could help you do better at general “life.”

*Warning: one of the “Adulthood/Adulting” books swears. I’d tell you which, but I can’t remember.

Feel free to leave your favorite goal in the comments, or recommend a book I might like.
Happy New Year, happy reading, and good luck with your goals!

M. C. Lee

Christmas Reading List

Since Christmas is coming, I thought I’d list some of my favorite “Christmas” books. Some are set at Christmas-time, some are about Christmas, and some are about THE Christmas.

Set at Christmas

Marian’s Christmas Wish, by Carla Kelly. Adult Regency romance. Less fluffy than some of the genre. What I like best: the heroine is brave and determined and makes the hero change his mind about what he wants (with her brain, not her fluttering eyelashes).

Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series. Adult mystery. She has several Christmas volumes out by now, so pick one. The mystery is good, the humor is better.

The Thirteen Days of Christmas, by Jenny Overton. Young adult historical romance. Annaple’s suitor woos her with gifts. Mildly sweet, heavily funny.

About Christmas (loosely speaking)

The Silent Bells, by William MacKellar & Ted Lewin. Juvenile historical fiction. The cathedral bells are silent, but there’s a legend that one day they will ring again if the right gift is presented on Christmas.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Historical fiction. You know, the one about Ebenezer Scrooge. Although a little heavy-handed, it’s also a classic for a reason.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson. Juvenile contemporary. When the worst kids in town take over the annual Christmas pageant, the results are both absolutely hilarious and extremely touching.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss. Juvenile poetry. If you’ve only seen the movie remakes, you are seriously missing out. (The cartoon based directly on the book is good.) This is the classic, and it’s a classic for a reason.

The Twenty-Four Days of Christmas, by Madeline L’Engle. Juvenile contemporary. Vicky’s baby sibling is due around Christmas, but she doesn’t want it if it means Mother will be gone. A sweet Advent book.

The First Christmas

Alphabet of Dreams, by Susan Fletcher. Juvenile historical fiction. A young lady (disguised as a boy) and her younger brother with prophetic dreams join the Magi to visit the newborn Christ. I read it as a Beehive Award nominee, and it was one of my favorites that year.

How Far to Bethlehem? by Norah Lofts. Adult historical fiction. This story of the Magi is not as well-written (a bit dry & awkward), but the characters are compelling and the story is touching.

The Donkey’s Gift, by Thomas M. Coffey. Told from the point of view of the rebellious donkey who carried Mary to Bethlehem, this is another hilarious-but-touching story.

Luke 2, in The Holy Bible. The ultimate classic story of Christmas. ๐Ÿ˜‰

What’s your favorite Christmas story?

Merry Christmas,
M. C. Lee

Thanksgiving Reading List

I’m very thankful for my family, so in honor of Thanksgiving, I decided to post a list of some of my favorite books about families. I’ve limited it to fiction (or easy-to-read biography), not nonfiction/self-help/parenting.

In random order, but categorized for your convenience, here are a dozen suggestions for your Thanksgiving reading pleasure.

Contemporary (or close):

Cheaper by the Dozen/Belles on Their Toes, by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (Biography. Hilariously funny, tremendously moving, and not even in the same class as the stupid new movies.)

Chickens in the Headlights, by Matthew Buckley (Biography. Also hilariously funny.)

Ramona Quimby series, by Beverly Cleary (Such an accurate portrayal of the ups AND downs of family life.)

Dear Lola: Or How to Build Your Own Family, by Judie Angell (A bunch of orphans face off the world to form their own family.)

North of Beautiful, by Christina Chen (A girl with a birthmark learns about true beauty and love.)

Historical:

The Glamorist Histories series, by Mary Robinette Kowal (“Jane Austen meets magic,” but so intertwined with family drama. Could also be filed under fantasy.)

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (A confined girl is finally set free of her rooms and discovers what family should actually be like.)

The Five Little Peppers, by Margaret Sydney (Okay, so it’s pretty old-fashioned, but I love the way the siblings love each other so much.)

Fantasy:

Ordinary Magic, by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway (When an ordinary girl is born into a magical family, what will they do with her?)

Castle Glower series, by Jessica Day George (When you’re an ordinary princess in an extraordinary family, how do you find a place for yourself?)

The Princesses of Westfalin Trilogy, by Jessica Day George (The 12 Dancing Princesses, but better. And the series continues with other fairy tale retellings, so how can you go wrong?)

The Leland Sisters series, by Marissa Doyle (Historical YA romance, with sisters who are always there for each other.)

What are you thankful for this year? What book has made you the most thankful for something in your life?

Happy Thanksgiving (early),
M. C. Lee

Strong Heroines

I was thinking about my last book post and that started me thinking about what makes a character, particularly a woman, strong. Now, I know men and women are just people, and a strong character is a strong character regardless of gender. (Did you stop throwing tomatoes yet?) But sometimes some people think a “strong woman” has to be strong physically, or good with weapons, or compete in a “man’s world.”

Since that’s never what I’ve thought, I wanted to talk about my definitions.

Let’s start with the difference between “strong” and “gentle,” since some people think someone can’t be both. Here’s what I decided. “Strong” is how well you resist pressure exerted on you. “Gentle” is how much pressure you exert on others. So while the terms are related, the direction of the pressure is important, and one person can be both at the same time.

Now, back to our heroines (and heroes). Is a strong warrior a strong person? Maybe, maybe not. The neighborhood bully that threatens people with his sword might be a strong warrior, but he isn’t a strong person. The unarmed traveler who gently refuses to comply with the demands of a robber is a strong person. (Possibly a dead strong person, but we can hope not.)

I’m going to borrow some of the heroes/heroines from last month’s post as examples. ๐Ÿ™‚ And yes, I cheated and threw in a couple of men. Strong is strong.

In The Great and Terrible Quest, the two main protagonists (heroes) are a wounded knight and a young boy. The knight is physically strong enough to fight multiple enemies, climb a cliff without a rope, and keep moving after enemies split his head. That’s not what impresses me most about him, though. He continues on his quest for ten years(!) through near-death and total memory loss, not to gain a reward for himself, but to give his own inheritance to the true owner. Wow, that’s strength of character. As for the little boy, he has very little physical strength (he is just a little boy), but he defies his robber-baron grandfather and the entire robber band to save an injured cat and then the wounded knight. He risks his life (Grandfather is a dangerous jerk) to save others, and he leads the knight ever onward despite enemies at every turn and almost no help from the knight. His strong determination and faith carry the story, and I love it.

The Ordinary Princess, Amy, is like Cimoreneย in some ways, like not wanting to be a princess. (Enchanted Forest series, by Wrede. Add it to your list.) But in others, she is very different. Amy doesn’t have a spitfire personality. She never picks up a weapon and doesn’t know any magic or even how to cook. She never fights anyone and doesn’t have any enemies. Amy is a cheerful, gentle soul. But when her parents decide to hire a dragon to attract a suitor, she runs away to protect her kingdom and ends up working as a kitchen maid until she’s drooping with exhaustion. I call that strength.

In the Crown Duel duology, our heroine does fight with a sword (very badly) and ride a horse (adequately) and try to improve politics (oh-so-disastrously). She doesn’t even know how to read, but I can’t call her weak. She keeps trying against overwhelming odds, even when torture and execution seem the inevitable next steps. And (spoiler) she wins. Not by feat of arms or might of army, but by one voice saying the right thing for morally right reasons. How strong can you get?

The heroine of Seven Daughters and Seven Sons is another non-combatant. I almost said non-fighter, but she does fight. She fights for her family’s financial security with her wits. She turns enemies into friends or finds ways to render them helpless, and all without a weapon. By the end of the story, her father, long thought cursed because he had only seven daughters, is praising her name and counting her better than his brother’s seven sons. Smart and caring is strong, too.

I could name more, but I think I’ve babbled long enough. Which characters in books you’ve read impressed YOU with their strength? What kind of strength did they have? What strength do you wish you had?

Trying to be stronger,
M. C. Lee